CardStar — Another Cool App

I first used CardStar a year or two ago when I first purchased my iPod Touch. However after I got sick of carrying both the iPod and my Blackberry around it fell out of use. When I upgraded to an iPhone 4S the app was there but I never felt compelled to set it up again. My loyalty cards sat in an unused stack on my desk (along with the business cards). When I opened the app for the first time in over a year yesterday, I was pleasantly surprised to find they added in a bar code scanner feature with the camera. Instead of having to type in each number I could just scan them with my camera and it would add them in. In under five minutes I had all my cards added and life was made easier. It seems a little weird to scan the bar codes off the phone screen at first, but it works.

Using LinkedIn

I’ve never been much of a user of LinkedIn but I saw that they now offer an app called CardMunch that converts a picture of a business card into a contact you can use on your phone. The app is easy to use: you just open it, take a picture, and then wait for it to go to the server for processing. When it comes back you have a fully usable contact that can be converted to an iPhone contact and if the person has a LinkedIn profile it will let you connect with them.

I still am learning how to use LinkedIn for job hunting. I found that they have a job listings section but it seemed focused mainly on jobs in New York and there were not many legal job postings. The fun part is that you can see if people looked at your profile, although sometimes LinkedIn leaves an ambiguous description of the person who viewed you, presumably to sell a premium subscription where you can see their full name. Overall I think LinkedIn fills a nice niche for professional connections and the iPhone app adds a lot of value. If more legal employers in the area used it then I would probably use it more.

Supreme Court to Hear Arguments on Affordable Care Act This Week

So far the best resource I’ve found is the SCOTUS Blog.The New York Times has an interesting article on the attorneys practicing for the oral arguments while Jeffrey Toobin at the New Yorker has an article as well. We should have a decision by sometime in June.

The thing that I found most bothersome is that the Obama administration has decided not to argue in favor of the severability of the act. This means if the insurance mandate fails, the entire Act will fall with it. All the reforms and progress of the past year will be pretty much zapped. As someone who benefitted from a provision in the act allowing me to remain on my parent’s health insurance until I am 26, I am watching this with much interest.

Thoughts on the Kony Video

If you are on facebook you have probably encountered the following video about a man named Joseph Kony:

There has been plenty of criticism of the video to go around. Some of the points are legitimate such as where the money the organization makes from contributions is going. Other people criticize the sharing of the video as slacktivism, a derogatory term coined to describe attempts to make a difference without doing much actual work. While I understand these concerns I do not agree with them. Our history has shown that powerful opinion that is widely circulated has the power to make a difference. Whether it is a video on YouTube found on social media or an opinion piece printed in a newspaper these arguments cause people to think and spur them to action.

The fact that the criticisms of the video have been circulating almost as widely as the video itself is a sign of an engaged citizenship that is thinking critically. People are aware that they are hearing only one side of the story in the video and want to learn more. Mainstream outlets like NPR and New York Times have posted analysis of the video. Many of my friends have posted critical links on facebook and some have even gone as far as asking others to consider the implications of engaging in an intervention. It is important to ask if we have the resources to dispense justice everywhere. Why should we go after Joseph Kony and not try to liberate North Korea? These are hard and complicated questions with multiple dimensions and viewpoints.

Fortunately it seems that this is a problem on the cusp of solution. The NPR piece suggests that the state department has been tackling the issue for two decades and they are on the verge of resolving the problems in Uganda. The Invisible Children organization has been using money to build communication infrastructure in the country. With little effort it sounds as if the capstone to this story will be a successful ending. It is important that we remember that it is not just Invisible Children that should get the credit, but the many others that have been involved over the past decades.

Mastered for iTunes

If you have an iPod, iPad, or iPhone you probably use iTunes. Recently Apple started releasing albums like Coldplay’s Mylo Xyloto as mastered for iTunes. This article from Ars Technica does a great job of explaining the process in depth. However if you want the quick explanation it is this: when you buy a song from iTunes you don’t get the full song. Parts of the song are chopped off to reduce the size of the file so it will download faster and fit on your iDevice. Originally Apple sold songs in what was termed 128kbps AAC. These songs were higher quality than most of the MP3s people were downloading from Napster but nowhere near as good as the actual CDs. Then they upped the ante with iTunes Plus allowing songs to be downloaded in 256kbps AAC. You get larger files but more song. The mastered for iTunes program takes it a step farther by allowing the audio technician to tweak how the songs are chopped so they sound truer to the original.

Does any of this make a difference? To the casual listener maybe not. Even the lower quality 128kbps AAC files sound better than what you get from the radio. The basic speakers and earbuds that most people use are not of a high enough quality for there to be a significant difference anyways. If you are using an FM transmitter with your iPod then you also are unlikely to be able to tell the difference in your car. However if you want to treat yourself, buy some high quality speakers or headphones and listen to the music in those. You might be surprised at what you have been missing.

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This work by Matt Zagaja is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.